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Full text of "A hermit in the Himalayas"

A   HERMIT   IN   THE   HIMALAYAS

Apparently the conversation did some good, for it raised its sad but
handsome'head a little higher and thereafter kept its feet on Una
firma. It set its hooves down with greater care and no longer did a
mere hair's breadth separate us both at times from the terrifying
drop. I rewarded the pony later with a couple of spoonfuls of my
precious sugar, once, alas, so common that it grew thickly in the
plains around me, but now to be carefully conserved and thriftily
ladled out, lest my supplies should run out before their estimated
calendared month and my tea thereby rendered totally unpalatable.
The leader of the coolies has told me that the pony's undesirable
habit has been inherited from a Tibetan pack-pony parent, which
used to carry huge loads in sacks swung so broadly across its back
as to force it to keep away from the inner side of tracks, so that the
load might clear the rocks on that side.

The sun has shone directly down all day with a heat that sur-
prises me, yet it is a tolerable and not trying heat, something indeed
like the temperature of good August summer weather in Europe,
In comparison with the terrific enervating heat of the broiling plains,
it is certainly paradisaical.

At a. turn in the ever-winding cliff trail, which is climbing higher
and higher, a whole new panorama of breath-taking scenic beauty
is displayed before my wondering eyes. That Nature could pile up
cyclopean peaks and mountain ridges with such a generous hand
and in such indiscriminate shapes is something which tame European
eyes can scarcely believe. Look where one will, in every direction,
one is hemmed in by her Himalayan giants. To the north-east, a
realm of perpetual frost, the colossal towering barrier that keeps
Tibet a suspicious and secluded alien in a world knit into friendly
communication by every conceivable means, rears its crevasscd grey
flanks, white snow-mantled shoulders and bluish icy head to the sky
from the shadowed ravines at its base. Enormous masses of smooth
shining snow glitter upon it. To the east, a long irregular line of
forest-covered heights and spurs stretches away, tier over tier, until
it loses itself in the distant horizon. To the west, I look down into
great rugged gorges of greyish olive-green blended with rich brown
that meet and unite in a vast bowl of rock and earth thousands of
feet below. To the south, I can but raise my head and crick my neck,
as I gaze at the uplifted summit of the lofty purple granite cliff
which towers above my pony only a couple of feet away from the
animal's side, and which dominates the immediate landscape.

All this plethora of camel-backed ridges split by deep chasms,
soaring peaks and sharply cut ravines lies strewn confusedly with
one branching out of the other or running parallel with it for a
length and then twisting off at a tangent to meet it suddenly again.